Steve Wiseman: Election is time to hear voices of older Scots

Older Scots will be looking to see if their needs feature in party manifestos. Picture: John Devlin

Older Scots will be looking to see if their needs feature in party manifestos. Picture: John Devlin

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With the grey vote crucial, politicians should be paying heed to their housing needs, writes Steve Wiseman

As the May election approaches, older Scots will be looking to see if their needs feature in party manifestos.

By 2033 almost one in four Scots will be of pensionable age. By 2033 the number of over 75s will reach 724,000, almost double the 2008 total.

And the number of Scots living longer poses serious questions for future housing, planning, health and social care policies.

To highlight the issue, McCarthy & Stone has launched its own manifesto, entitled Improving Housing Choices for Older People. In it we ask the Scottish Government to strengthen planning policy to place greater emphasis on meeting the needs of our ageing population and to provide greater clarity regarding retirement housing’s exemption from affordable housing contributions.

And choice of accommodation is important. More than one in three homeowners expect to consider downsizing, but they cannot find the right sort of accommodation in the right location.

Providing appropriate accommodation for older Scots releases family homes into a market desperate for such accommodation. But the opportunity to downsize is limited.

Scotland has only 36,000 sheltered or very sheltered housing units with just 10 per cent privately owned. Yet 76 per cent of older Scots are homeowners and wish to remain so when they do downsize.

In Giffnock, we developed Scotland’s first assisted living extra care development, a model since replicated in Cults and Edinburgh. Residents retain the independence of home ownership but have the added peace of mind of 24 hour on-site care and management alongside tailored personal and domestic care packages.

Specialist retirement housing offers facilities that allow older people to continue to enjoy living independently in their homes even if they become frailer.

Political parties should need no encouragement to address the issue; they should remember that older voters vote in more numbers than any other group, and their numbers are growing.

• Steve Wiseman is managing director of McCarthy & Stone in Scotland

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